Our Warnings on Helios are Validated

Over the past several years, we have had a number of prospective customers tell us they specifically wanted Helios solar panels. We understood why — Helios panels are made in the USA, and even closer to home for Ohio, in Wisconsin, in the Upper Midwest. We support the drive to use American-made solar panels and other Made in USA solar components, but we also work very hard to protect the long-term interests of our customers. After all, a PV solar clean energy system will be productive for more than 25 years, and that 25-year warranty needs to be backed by a healthy company with a good long-term outlook.

In evaluating solar panels and related equipment, we employ three main filters:

  • Quality of the solar technology platform
  • Specific solar performance indicators coupled with industry reputation
  • Financial stability of the solar manufacturer

Our concern with Helios was that third filter. Sadly, with Helios declaring bankruptcy, our advice to customers has been validated.

We choose only the top performers to build our reputation upon. Our network of national peer companies amplifies our internal ability to vet and process the best available solar products. We are well-connected by virtue of our 14 years of industry leadership as well as our president’s positions on the NABCEP and SolarTECH boards of directors. We have interviewed executives and key science and operations officers at all of the solar manufacturers that we recommend and we monitor the real world performance of their equipment at multiple test sites around the world.

We do not recommend a product lightly. As a case in point, we are proud to have warned against using Solyndra, due to its unproven technology as well as the instability of its parent company. We had many customers asking for Solyndra solar panels when they were the “hot new thing.” We’re proud to have held those customers off by advising them, “that technology is not yet proven in the real world—we’re not using them. If and when they prove to be everything they claim, we’ll consider using them.” They never did, and despite government backing, Solyndra went under—and gave the entire industry a black eye.

Now, Wisconsin’s Helios Solar Works has “temporarily suspended operations” at its 50-megawatt capacity c-Si solar panel factory in Menomonee Valley and filed for receivership, according to Milwaukee Public Radio. Helios Solar was a member of CASM, the SolarWorld-led consortium that brought an epic trade case to the U.S. Department of Commerce and succeeded in placing an approximate 30 percent tariff (anti-dumping and countervailing duties) on PV modules with Chinese-made solar cells.

Earlier this year, an investigation by the Commerce Department determined that Chinese manufacturers were not only guilty of illegally dumping solar cells and panels into the U.S. market, but that they also benefit from more than a dozen illegal subsidy programs.

Regarding the Preliminary Judgment by the Department of Commerce: This is a positive step forward for U.S. solar companies and the prospect of a stronger American solar manufacturing industry that can help more Americans back to work.

Our best solar advice to you: spend time choosing an experienced solar installer who will advise you and guide you toward the best solution for your energy needs, unique site characteristics, and budget.